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Why Not in Our Back Yard?

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You've heard it many times: "We don’t oppose housing for poor people. We just think it ought to be located somewhere else." It's a difficult balance for planning commissioners. Communities need low-cost housing and community services, but neighborhoods often argue that these facilities should be sited elsewhere.

Localities have been sued under the Fair Housing Act for discriminatory zoning ordinances and specific land use decisions, but the flip side is potential political or legal fallout from existing residents who don’t want housing or services on their blocks. Most often it seems that no matter what decision the local commission makes, someone will be unhappy.

The phenomenon of community opposition has been with us as long as we have had zoning. Calling opponents "NIMBYs" (for Not In My Back Yard) inflames the debate. For purposes of this article, I'll use an alternative, less emotionally charged term: LULU (for Locally Unwanted Land Use).

Whether drawn from reason or from emotion, community opposition reflects neighbors' concerns that their lives will change for the worse. When the proposed housing or social service provider is unknown to a community, it is easier to assume the worst. With great speed, the mantra of opposition to a LULU spreads in the community: "It will reduce our property values. It will increase crime. It will erode the quality of the neighborhood." There is plenty of empirical evidence to the contrary. But because these concerns are often raised in an emotional context, mere presentation of such research will be ineffective in quelling the concerns. As a consequence, housing and service advocates have begun to adopt deliberate community engagement strategies.

End of excerpt

... article continues with a focus on how to positively engage the community in dealing with "LULUs"

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